It’s very easy to assume that whenever you see Matthew Vaughn’s name attached in any way to a film that you’re in for something quality. Simply by having his company MARV make your film, there is a gold standard that comes with it, well, maybe aside from Kick Ass 2, which was a pale and anemic comparison to the original. That being said, one questionable film in the whole production companies career is a fantastic track record, even enough to forgive Vaughn for having any involvement with the recent Fantastic Four film. Or at least I forgive him.
Vaughn now turns his attention to producing the debut film from actor and now director Dexter Fletcher. Fans of Vaughn and Guy Ritchie’s films will recognize Fletcher from a handful of roles including Soap in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Cody in Layer Cake. Heck, he also played a character named Cody in Kick Ass, as well as one of Robert Deniro’s pirate crew in Stardust. The point is, Vaughn and Fletcher have a longstanding friendship and it’s only fitting that the producer and director would help to bring his friend’s first film, Eddie The Eagle, to the screen under his company’s banner.
The true story about a British Olympic hopeful in 1988, Eddie The Eagle is very much an underdog story of one man fighting against the odds just for a simple position. Kingsman: The Secret Service’s Taron Egerton plays the title character, Eddie Edwards, a striving athlete with only one goal in mind: be an Olympian. That’s it. Very simple. After being cut from the British men’s downhill skiing team, Eddie sets his sights on something no man in England had done professionally in the Olympics, ever. He dropped everything, took his father’s work van and the family savings his mother gives him, and sets out for the German ski resort village, Garmisch.
Once there he eventually comes across Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a former American ski jump champion, now a fading drunk who drives the snowplow on the property. After continually mocking Eddie’s ski jump inability, he is swayed by the tenacity of the young Brit and reluctantly agrees to give him some points, just so he doesn’t die in a horrific accident on the jump. The two form a very close coach and athlete bond slowly but surely and Eddie then finds himself in a position to qualify for the Olympics and to fully realize his baser dream, the 1988 Calgary Olympics, coincidentally where I was living in 1988, not that that’s an important plot point. It was very neat feeling that connection though.
This movie succeed in it’s ability to charm the audience first and foremost. Taron Egerton’s delightful innocence and his physical quirks that mirror the real Eddie Edwards automatically endear you to this character and puts you on his side immediately. This is heightened further once the relationship between him and Jackman is established, with Egerton’s goofiness playing so well against Jackman’s character’s surliness. For Egerton it’s another good ride after Kingsman: The Secret Service and for Jackman it’s a way for the audience and himself to forget the terrible year of 2015 which brought us Chappie and Pan.
Dexter Fletcher manages to hold himself up well in his directorial debut but the story and actor are really taking the top prize in what makes this film work so well. In all honesty, any director worth anything could have made this film work as all the key elements lie within that script and how you play it. For me the only real weakness comes in the CGI effects in some of the more grisly ski accidents. I’m able to give this a pass being it must be impossible to safely enact some of these brutal tumbles but a little more post production work may have cleaned this up a bit.
The one thing that I thought Eddie The Eagle played up nicely was the oddball insanity around the Calgary Olympics in 1988. Eddie almost stole the entire focus of the Olympics without really even being any good at his event. The sweet journey of this underdog even making it to the games really cemented him as a crowd favorite and a story everyone had in their heads. You also must remember that this was the year of the Jamaican bobsled team, whose story was made into the Disney film Cool Runnings and is fleetingly mentioned in this film.
This film really has a pretty big appeal as an inspirational tale about following your dreams and uses that moral as an all encompassing message rather than hammer you in the face with it over and over. Unlike Race the week before, Eddie The Eagle’s sports action scenes are totally captivating and presented in an exhilarating way that almost puts you right in his goggles next to his uber thick glasses. I think it’s so easy for a director to get so caught up with the drama of the character that the actual saleable focus of the movie, the sport itself, gets lost. Fletcher knew what was important in this film and it constantly shines through. I really liked Eddie The Eagle and give it a four out of five.